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The Beginner Violinist's Quick History of the Violin! by  Darlene M Schirmer

The history of the violin is a trip back in time full of mystery, elegance and innovation. It is thought that the first bowed instruments were created in Central Asia within the equestrian cultures, hence the use of horsehair for the bow and at that time, the strings. The Mongolian and Turkish tribes of Asia used a fiddle that was two-stringed, was strung with horsehair and often a carved horse's head adorned the pegbox (the head of the neck where the tuning pegs are). These nomads carried their fiddles to other lands such as India, China and the Middle East where they were changed and adapted into other instruments, such as the rebab, lyra, erhu and ersaj. The trade routes of the silk road lead through Venice and Genoa, Italy. This is where the violin that we know today first appeared.

It is thought that the European violin came about through the combination of different bowed instruments that were brought from the Middle East and the Byzantine Empire. The first luthiers (violin makers) there probably used the rebec (which dates from the 10th century), the Byzantine Lyra, and the Arabic rebab. Jambe de Fer published "Epitome musical" in Lyon in 1556 which is the first documented description of the violin and includes its tuning.

Andrea Amati was a popular luthier to the French king Charles IX who ordered Amati to construct 24 violins for him in 1560. In 1555, Amati supposedly constructed the first documented violin having four strings, but there is some doubt as to the validity of the date as there are some three string violins known that are from an earlier date.

As time passed, luthiers made certain changes and adaptations to the violin. During the 18th century, the neck was changed regarding the angle and length and more weight was added to the bass bar.

Throughout the history of the violin, there are some famous luthiers that stand out as creators of
world-renowned instruments. The 16th through the 18th centuries produced the most famous violin makers. If you've dabbled even a little in the violin arena, you will recognize some of these names.

Antonio Stradivari and family (1644-1744)
The Guarneri family (1626-1744)
The Amati Family (1500-1740)
Gio Paolo Maggini (1600-1630)

Instruments created by these luthiers are priceless treasures, desired by performers and collectors alike. On May 16, 2006, one Stradivari violin was purchased for $3,544,000.00 which is the highest recorded price paid for a violin.

The violin is an instrument rich in heritage and history, let alone a beautiful piece of workmanship. Knowing a bit about its history invokes images of nomads in Central Asia sitting around a fire entertaining themselves with music or nobility dancing with their large wigs and big dresses.

If you're ready to learn, ready to be a violinist, then its on to the next step...lessons.

Darlene Schirmer

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